Round the World Paul (aka rtwPaul) is a fellow motorcycle adventurer who became a full-time rider in 2012. He has ridden a lot in the Northern Americas, but also crossed the ocean to Europe and Asia. Furthermore, he customizes his own motorcycles and is a great photographer. No wonder, I wanted to interview him for my ‘10 questions to…’
1. You have been riding a motorcycle since you were 8 years old. What was for you the thrill of riding a bike then, and has that changed over time?
When I was a kid, it was forbidden for me to ride, my parents hated motorcycles! Which of course made me love them more because I was a stubborn child!
Even at 8 years of age they gave me a certain amount of freedom, as I grew older and continued to ride, I found out what freedom really meant and that hasn’t ever left me.
It is the joy of getting on a motorcycle. How the simplicity of the machine can transport you anywhere you want to. The feeling you are part of the adventure because riding makes all your senses come alive. It is not like watching through a window what you do in a car, where they are dulled!
2. What makes the KTM a good travel bike for you, and what are the most important modifications you make before heading off?
I like the KTM for lots of reasons; lightweight, unique, easy to work on, fun to ride, adaptable to how I want to ride, great range.
I always look at ergonomics, range, and lighting initially. I want to be comfortable, not just sitting but also standing. I don’t want to be restricted on where I can ride, so the option of a good-sized fuel tank is important to be able to ride in remote areas.
Even though I hate to ride in the dark, sometimes it happens, so I like to be able to see where I am going and also be seen. Over and above that, you need to have the right luggage, knowledge of the bike and its quirks, and a good knowledge of how to deal with a situation if and when it happens.
It’s not the right bike for most travelers, and that’s ok, they aren’t the one riding it. As long as I smile every day when I look at it and ride it, that’s enough to make me happy.
3. You travel with different bikes and mentioned in an interview 'don't let the bike pick your route, pick your route and choose the right bike'. Can you give some examples of your own travels and how that has worked out for you?
A heavy bike can restrict you on more technical trails, regardless to how good a rider you think you are. A heavy bike, loaded with luggage, cannot be ridden consistently well in technical remote areas.
Dropping a 600lb-800lb loaded bike multiple times a day, being solo and picking it up, in the heat, altitude, cold, rain, mud, or snow, after a while, it will become impossible to deal with and the fun of riding will soon disappear.
So if I know I’ll be doing lots of paved roads or riding 2-up the big bike always wins.
…but once I get an itch for gravel, dirt, or even technical riding then I always look for a lighter bike. The last thing I want on a trail is to know I have the skills to ride up but have second thoughts about if I crash or drop the bike in what kind of potentially life-threatening situation I could get myself in.
I rode Mongolia on a 290lb bike, I met riders on big 700lb bikes that rode similar areas. I had fun and can’t wait to go back, they hated every minute and vowed never to return.
Similarly in Iceland last year, a month of very remote dirt tracks with dozens of river crossings. When I finally reached the ferry to leave, I was the only one on a dirt bike. The rest were big adventure bikes, more than 40 of them, and more than half of the riders came to tell me I was on the right bike!
4. You mentioned that your best riding experiences have been in the 'Stans'. Can you tell a bit more about why that has been the best riding experience?
The remoteness and the cultural differences make it a very unique experience. There are virtually no limitations on where you can ride and even in the remotest places the local people were so happy to see you.
The terrain is vast, the mountain ranges crave attention and are mostly unexplored by western motorcyclists. The photography opportunities are incredible, with the people and the mountain ranges seemingly touching the sky. The chance to ride them was a life changing experience.
5. Sometimes you travel with a travel partner, sometimes you travel alone. What do you appreciate the most about traveling together and traveling alone?
Traveling with someone is great at the end of the day to share the stories of the adventure, but it can also be restrictive. If you and your riding partner aren’t 100% in tune with each other about how, what, and where you both want to ride, then one of you must make a compromise. If there is a compromise to be made once, then there is a good chance it will happen many times.
6. What has been your most serious breakdown so far, and how did you fix it?
After crossing Russia, Mongolia, and the Stans in 2014, I was enjoying the relative comfort of Europe right up until my engine made a loud pop and then stopped. I didn’t know at the time it was a catastrophic failure, and it would take nearly four months to source all the parts to fix it.
My resolution was to leave the bike in Europe waiting for parts, look for another bike I liked, which I found in the US, then carry on riding until the original bike was fixed.
7. According to you, what are the three most important qualities of a biker for traveling abroad?
Open mindedness to new experiences. Being a role model, so travelers after you also have a great experience and are welcomed by locals. Don’t let your bike determine your route. Final, pack light, and travel slow.
8. You have been traveling for quite some time now. What inspires you to continue exploring the world? (question from Loyalty Member Tommy Oppegaard)
There is always more to see, one lifetime is not enough, so I try and make the absolute most of the time I have.
I love the opportunity to stand in some very unique places and take photographs of them to share with others that aren’t as fortunate as I am to be in that amazing spot.
9. You have ridden a lot in the USA. Is there any state in the US that should not be missed? (question from Loyalty Member Tom Teeters)
Colorado, however long you think you want to ride there, double or triple it. You can ride the same track in different directions and have a totally unique experience each time.
Colorado is a great place to cartwheel/ cloverleaf. Pick a base draw a 200 miles circle and ride inside that 200-mile circle only heading a different direction each day, then move and keep repeating. The lighter the bike the better to see some of the more remote areas, hence leaving your luggage at a base camp.
10. You are besides a biker, also a photographer. Can you share one or two images that hold a special place in your heart?
Can I have three? This is a difficult one as I have (literally) around a million or so photos saved from my travels, but these make the point beautifully about overland travel on a motorcycle, and they make me smile…but no motorcycles in the shots.
#1 Grand Canyon, a shot of me, taken by my friend @dave6253. We were riding around the Grand Canyon for two weeks, a place that sees over 6 million visitors a year. In two weeks, we saw less than 20 people because the light bikes we were riding allowed us to get to some of the remotest parts of the park, areas that even some of the rangers that have worked there for decades have never seen…this is the joy of motorcycle travel on the ‘right bike’ for the route you are riding.
#2 A random place on the planet that I was wild camping, and coincidentally had some of the darkest skies anywhere. There was no moon that night which helped even more and by the time my eyes had adjusted I could see the Milky Way. So, this was one of my easiest ever astro shots but as I’m taking it, it makes me realize that no matter how far we ride, distance is relative, and there is always more to see.
#3 (Sadly a little out of focus) The people you meet will always be the fondest memories of travel. This was taken in Mexico, a country that has a lot of bad press like many others, but the people are amazingly friendly and helpful. I could have taken it in dozens of other countries and got a similar image. But, I just love how much they obviously mean to each other, and nothing else in the world matters to them at this moment in time.
Really informative interview, Noraly. I'll check out his channel; sounds like there's a lot of good info there. It was your interview with Lea that let me ride around Europe with her this year, and across the US last year. Thanks SO much for sharing your fellow adventurers with us!
I guess Paul has given you a lot more ideas and places for to go and check out after Alaska.
What a great set of ten questions. Paul hit it out of the park with all of his answers.
The pictures that he provided went well with the question.
I really enjoyed reading this Noraly. Thank you for asking Paul to participate.
Thanks for helping to keep alive the love of exploring!